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CMSRU fast-tracks med school for some students

This summer, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) welcomed the second cohort of students accepted into its three-year accelerated program, a federal grant-funded initiative designed to strengthen the primary care workforce in the southern New Jersey region, particularly in underserved communities.

Three new students started the competitive program in July, joining four others who are entering their second year. An additional first year student will likely join at the end of the academic year.

“Eligible students must be committed to practicing primary care, and have the focus and maturity to be successful in this fast-paced, condensed curriculum,” explains Camille Henry, MD, director of the program at CMSRU. “There is a rigorous screening process to ensure that we enroll the right students for this challenging program.”

Eventually, CMSRU plans to have four students enrolled in each class, two in internal medicine and two in pediatrics. Upon graduating from CMSRU, students in the three-year accelerated program will complete their primary care residency training at Cooper University Health Care in pediatrics or internal medicine, depending on which track they followed.

First-year students in the three-year accelerated program began their studies a full five weeks before the incoming Class of 2021 arrives on campus. They started with a specially-designed CMSRU course, “Introduction to Basic Clinical Skills.” Arranged by organ system, students are learning core concepts in medical communication, history-taking and physical diagnosis. They are also exposed to common medical problems and symptoms that primary care physicians encounter in their practices. The students have also been gaining experience in CMSRU’s simulation center, where they are working with standardized patients. This activity will prepare them for their second course – hands-on experience in a patient-centered medical home practice, to which they will be assigned for their three years of medical school and three years of residency training.

Their colleagues in the entering M2 class are in the midst of a brand-new summer course called “Transforming Healthcare in an Urban Environment,” designed in collaboration with The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers – an organization founded by MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship honoree Dr. Jeffrey Brenner. In this course, students explore socioeconomic barriers to care in underserved communities and innovative healthcare delivery models that address these barriers.

For students, the three-year accelerated program not only provides them with clear career direction and preparation, it can also help lessen the burden of student debt.

“According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average student loan debt for a medical student is over $180,000,” says Annette C. Reboli, MD, interim dean of CMSRU. “By completing their degree one year sooner, the students in this program can save a significant amount of money overall.”

CMSRU’s 3-year accelerated program is part of CMSRU’s Primary Care Training Enhancement (PCTE) project - an initiative to change primary care education and training for medical students, residents, and clinical faculty, as well as students in nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs. In 2015, CMSRU was awarded a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for its PCTE. The development and launch of the three-year accelerated program was a principal goal of the project.

This year, CMSRU also received supplementary funding from HRSA for the development of an opioid/addictions curriculum, which will be provided to the students in both the accelerated and regular MD-programs.

"The focus of our PCTE is to provide a new training experience in order to build a larger and better equipped primary care workforce," explains Dr. Reboli. "We hope to build a prototype training environment that can serve as a model designed to ultimately strengthen the primary care workforce across the continuum of training and care in an interdisciplinary/interprofessional manner."

CMSRU is also proud to be part of a small consortium of medical schools across the country with accelerated programs. This group is funded by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.